Big stores considering whether you should just keep the stuff you want to return, for free

Originally published at: Big stores considering whether you should just keep the stuff you want to return, for free | Boing Boing


Or they can follow Amazon’s lead and make the return process a pain in the butt.


I think Amazon did this initially as a loss-leader customer loyalty gambit more than anything about inventory management. I say this because they’ve largely stopped doing it, and in fact have largely stopped doing much customer service at all around returns. If you want a refund, you have to send the item back now (though they’ll pay for shipping) and if it’s from a third party seller, you’re likely totally screwed. Since they increasingly obscure who is a third party seller and who is Amazon on the platform, it’s easy to get burned. I recently ordered an item from (I thought) Amazon, they sent the wrong item, I filed for a return, and they told me I had to talk to the third party. I tried and was 100% ghosted by them no matter what I did, so I’m was simply out the money I spent.


Amazon has the easiest return policy I’ve ever used.

If something shows up broken or wrong or just about any reason, I just go to my account and initiate a return. Normally, with a minute or two, I have a label for free shipping and as soon as the label is scanned by the shipper my account is credited.

Several times they just told me to keep the item. A few times my order has been lost so I cancel the order, get my money back, and then if the thing shows up they tell me to keep it.


I was getting this more often than not with Target (and certainly more often than with Amazon), but this was a year or two ago, and I’m guessing it had to do with the pandemic and (not) returning items face-to-face in a store. I haven’t needed to return an online order from Target recently.


Allow people to keep everything they “return” but threaten them with the wrath of the abuse detection algorithm if they actually do it. Sounds like perfect customer service.


Some big box stores, definitely Home Depot, will destroy perfectly good or very slightly flawed/used return items in a compactor. This has to do with agreements with vendors and I think it may have been a requirement for HD or the manufacturer to be able to write off the replacement cost.


It’s not a question of whether it’s a third party seller or not. Amazon provides free return service for many products sold by third parties, and there are some products sold by Amazon itself that can’t be returned (like sex toys and certain kinds of dry erase markers). The key is to look for “Free returns” on the product page:


That said, it WOULD be nice if they were more in-your-face about the stuff that CAN’T be returned. It would be especially nice if it was indicated on the checkout page when you choose shipping speed.


It also pushes the cost of recycling and otherwise getting rid of useless crap onto the consumer, even more than it was before


Amazon has never told me to just keep it.

I remember a long time a go a sweatshirt from the Disney store for my wife had a bad zipper. They sent a replacement and said to give it to good will.

And Funko sent me a new special DieCast Boba Fett after the one I had had some small damage to my base. They said to just keep the other one or give it away, so I gave it to my Nephew.

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I agree, I return stuff to Amazon frequently and only way it could be easier is if they’d come over to my place and pick it up themselves. I also have them tell me to keep the product I want to return every so often.


Likewise. A few times when I’ve received something obviously broken beyond repair, I contacted a customer service person, and asked if they really wanted the item sent back, or if should just throw it away. They were generally happy to oblige.

Amazon has reasons for making “talk to a human being” options obscure, but I’ve generally found the human beings to be reasonable, helpful, and willing to set aside rules that aren’t helpful.


It is a little silly that Amazon sends its delivery people to my home at least once a week, but that they want me to UPS any returns back to them (or drop the stuff off at a Whole Foods or Amazon Locker, etc).

I’ve found that defective items will often include a prepaid UPS pickup. So it’s easy to hand any other outgoing packages to the UPS guy at the same time.

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I assume that Amazon just send low and middle value returns to a skip anyhow. I get my refund notice about 30 seconds after taking it into the shipper. They can’t be checking that I’ve actually put the thing in the jiffy bag, even less that it’s actually faulty.


I was talking to my wife about this and she reminded me of a friend of ours.

She ordered a $50 toy, they sent a $500 princess castle playset. She contacted Amazon, they said keep it and sent her the original toy.

She was the bestest grandma that day.


Amazon shipped my mother two bags of high end cat litter today. She has no cat. They said she could keep it or donate it to a rehoming charity.


yeah, I have a UPS Store in the neighborhood so I always choose that return option. It is nice that they don’t need the box or shipping materials–I can just drop off the bare product and they’ll take care of it. I’m having a hard time imagining an Amazon delivery driver being able to handle that, but :man_shrugging:

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I’m telling you what Amazon told me. Believe me or don’t, up to you. This was last week, so still pretty fucking fresh.


Most online purchases that are returned are destroyed or sold in bulk to resellers instead of being restocked.

Some smaller stores have stopped offering free returns because people would size bracket (order a size 8, 10, 12) or order items in multiple colours with the intention of only keeping one or two items and returning the rest.

Seems like the big stores have decided to save money by not dealing with paying for the cost of shipping and just letting the customer trash/sell/give the product away instead.

Retailers are very good at the logistics of getting shipments from factories to warehouses to stores, or individual orders from warehouses/stores to consumers.

Retailers are very bad at the backwards logistics of getting individual items back from customers, checking to see if they are in good condition, re-packaging the item and then restocking and reselling the item. It just isn’t cost effective. Capitalism!


Easy for people who like running around town engaging in superfluous activity, or for people who are “highly organized”.

In the old days:

  1. take the item back to store, and get credited.

In the Amazon days:

  1. Log into the amazon site, navigate to the return page, download a jpg return label.
  2. Print it out. Oh fuck, the printer is out of ink because that’s what printers do.
  3. Drive to the mailbox store and print it out there.
  4. Drive back home and realize you recycled the original box, so hunt through the garage for a box.
  5. Oops no box, gotta run out to the store.
  6. Buy a box, and might as well buy an ink cartdridge, and packing tape.
  7. Wow, good thing I bought packing tape. Package the thing up and affix the printed label.
  8. Drive to the mailbox store to ship the package. Oh fuck, it’s closed. Well, I’ll remember to drop it off tomorrow.
  9. Six months later, what’s this box in the back of my trunk?


To be fair, Amazon used to work with chain retailers like Kohl’s – you could drop a package off there with a receipt printed from the Amazon site. But the pandemic killed off that program, at least in my town.